Teen charged with setting fire to church — Buffalo, NY
Police have charged a Buffalo teen with arson in connection with a church fire over the weekend. He’s accused of torching a vacant church at Tacoma and Colvin.
Even before the fire was out, neighbors say they had a hunch that it was set, intentionally or accidentally, by kids breaking into the building. As it turns out, they were right.
Seventeen-year-old Jonathan Booth of Buffalo is facing arson, criminal mischief and reckless endangerment charges after police say he admitted to starting a three-alarm fire at the church owned by Korean United Methodist Church. The building sustained a quarter of a million dollars in damages .
Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield said, “It took a lot of our resources, within the city, to respond to this fire. And at that fire, we lost one of our members, who broke her ankle. [A] 16-year veteran of the Buffalo Fire Department was injured at that scene.”
Fire marshals were led to Booth by Town of Tonawanda Police, who’d heard from tipsters that five or six teens were inside the vacant church, when the fire started.
“In his confession, he said that he was at odds with one of the other individuals that was in the church, and he decided to set an article of clothing on fire, of that individual’s. That’s how the fire started,” Whitfield stated.
Neighbors say kids are almost constantly inside the empty church, causing mischief. The owners haven’t had the money to maintain the property for several years.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said, “The property has been written up a number of times, as recently as January, and will soon be in housing court.”
Permits and inspections assistant director Louis Petrucci said, “The owner has expressed a desire to demolish the property, at this point. Once they make an application, the Preservation Board will review their application for demolition.”
The city is now reviewing the property, and could intercede if it’s deemed to be worth saving.
“We would also certainly make sure that community members would be notified, so that the community would be able to play a role in preventing that, if they wish to,” said Mayor Brown.
The firefighter with the broken ankle has had surgery and is now recovering. Two other firefighters suffered minor injuries here, according to Whitfield.
The investigation is still open, and it’s possible the other kids who’d broken into this church with Booth may also be charged.